We love music and Black music and as we approach this all- important election, I’ve been thinking about the role it’s played to motivate us to do the right thing. Without picking up a book (not that I’m encouraging that) we can look back at our album, eight-track, cassette, cd collections and iTunes libraries to get a historic look at our fight for equality (We Shall Not be Moved and We Shall Overcome, various artists), succeeding against the odds (How I Got Over, Mahalia Jackson), the impact of the Vietnam War (War, What is it Good For, Edwin Starr), Black pride(Say it Loud, James Brown), Blaxploitation, (Super Fly, Curtis Mayfield), chaos in America (What’s Going On, Marvin Gaye), push for a national holiday for MLK (Happy Birthday, Stevie Wonder), more chaos (Wake Up Everybody, Teddy Pendergrass), the effort to end hunger (We Are the World, various artists ) and love for our country (Whitney’s Star Spangled Banner).
The thing about anthems is, that no matter what era they’re written and recorded in, they’re timeless. Listen to the words of Marvin Gaye’s Mercy Mercy Me, recorded in 1971.
“Oh Mercy mercy me.
Oh, things aren’t what they used to be
Oil wasted on the oceans and upon our seas, fish full of mercury.
Oh, mercy mercy me.
Oh, things at what they used to be
No no, radiation in the ground and in the sky
Animals and birds who live nearby are dying.”